Inside the Milano Duomo
The arrow points to the red light above
the altar inside the Duomo (see Day 10)
Day 9: We took the 12:30 p.m. EuroStar Italia from Roma Termini into Milan Centrale. The 4.5-hour train ride was uneventful, and I slept most of the way to pass time. The taxi ride from the train station to Antica Locanda dei Mercanti, our hotel, was 10 minutes long and only €11 — much more acceptable. After settling in, we walked around the neighborhood along Via Dante, then had dinner at Ciao!, the self-service chain restaurant. It was kind of a rip-off. The pasta, although very good, only included about four pieces of mushroom and yet cost us &euro4;. But we were hungry and so were happy to food. After dinner, it was back to our hotel room, where we spent the rest of the evening writing postcards to family and friends, reading, and listening to jazz on the radio, as there was no TV in our room.

Day 10: We experienced and survived an attack by Milan mosquitoes! I had heard one buzzing near my ear during my sleep but waved it away. At four in the morning, I woke up to a yelp from Jill, who, to get away from the mosquito, decided to hide under the comforter on her bed, only to hear the high-pitched buzz INSIDE the covers!!! We turned on all the lights, and were shocked to find not one, not two, not three, but FOUR mosquitos resting on the wall and ceiling (the memory of it is making my skin crawl even as I type this!). Since we had no insect sprays, we resorted to hairspray, which worked very well (I guess it made their wings stick together) against the vicious bloodsuckers. When I slapped the third one between my palms, I was grossed out by the amount of blood that was left smeared on my hand. The fourth one took forever to catch because it remained on the ceiling and refuesd to budge. We finally had to chase it down by using the antenna from the radio to poke it. Poor Jill received at least six bites on her face, neck, and chest. We went back to sleep. In the morning, we visited the Duomo, the fourth largest church in Europe (after Vatican, London, and Seville). Built in Gothic style from 1386 through 1810, it is darker inside than St. Peter's, but has a lot more stained glass. f you go there, be sure to look for the red light high above the altar. It'll be pretty obvious, and supposedly marks the spot where a nail from Jesus' cross is stored. St. Helena, Emperor Constantine's mother, brought it back from her pilgrimage back in the 4th century. Of course I don't know whether it's REAL or not, but I was tickled to see the red light way up there near the ceiling, as Rick Steves mentions in his guidebook. After the Duomo, we spent the rest of the day walking around in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II (again, another attribute to VE2) and La Rinascente, the department store. We had our afternoon siesta at La Salotto, a restaurant / cafe inside the Galleria. I ordered hot chocolate, and it was exactly that: Melted chocolate, that, if left untouched for a few minutes, begins to congeal a little at the top. We had dinner at Piccola Tuscia Ristorante, a block away from our hotel.

stomping on the bull fresco
Stomping on the Turin bull
fresco for good luck inside
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Day 11: Our last full day in Milan before we head for home. I had originally intended to skip Leonardo Da Vinci's Last Supper because I heard that the paint was flaking off the fresco, but Jill really wanted to see it, so we called to make a reservation before we arrived in Milan (see note at the bottom of this page), and thank goodness we did. I was very pleased by the visit. It was much larger than I had expected, as it took up an entire wall. Because of preservation concerns, they only let 25 people in at a time, so it felt very intimate. I also made the reservation inadvertently for 9:30 a.m., when a guided tour in English is mandatory (€21.50 for the two of us; normally admission is €6.50 each plus €1 reservation fee). The guide explained the idea behind the special dust-prevention air-filter system, the techniques employed by da Vinci, and other minutiae we would not have known otherwise. It was a very informative and I considered the extra €3.25 for the tour well spent. After the Last Supper, we walked along La Quirinale, but the merchanise there was too haute-coutured for us, so we walked through Corso Vittorio Emanuele II (is there no end to the glorification of this man???) and made many good purchases. Jill spent the rest of the day hunting for souvenirs for our family members (I had done most of my souvenir shopping back in Florence), and I tagged along, looking for additional bargains to buy. I ended up finding myself a long white wool coat and a sweater — can't wait for the weather to get cold so I can wear them! At the recommendation of our concierge (seems to be the case for 100% of our dinners) we had dinner at Ristorante Nabucco in the Brera District, about a 10-minute walk from our hotel. It was our most expensive four-course meal with wine, at €119, but it was our last dinner on the trip and we felt like splurging. The food was very good, so I had no complaints. At night, we packed up and went to bed around 11:45 p.m.

Day 12: Woke up at 6:30, showered, and got ready for our trip back home. We took a five-minute cab ride to Cadorna Train Station, caught the Malpensa Express train ride into Milan's Malpensa Airport (40 minutes away), and boarded United Airlines Flight #971 into Washington, D. C. By now I had developed a sore throat, so I took a NyQuil and slept most of the way. Same story for our next flight from D. C. into San Francisco. I was knocked out for most of it. At 8:37 p.m. Pacific time, we landed in SFO and were picked up by Jill's mom and sister at the airport. It was a very good trip, but I was glad to be able to sleep in my own bed again that night. It took me a week to recover from my cold, but that's quite another story....

Note: You can make an appointment for Leonardo Da Vinci's Last Supper at the Church of Santa Maria della Grazie from the U. S. by calling (M-F 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Sa 9 a.m.-2 p.m., Milan time, which is 6 hours ahead of Eastern Time). An English-speaking operator will help you. The Last Supper itself is closed on Mondays.

Days 1 - 4 in Florence | Days 5 - 8 in Rome | Days 9 - 12 in Milan